Another chapter in the NBA’s most epic rivalry will be written as the 5-5 Los Angeles Lakers begin a four-game road trip against the 9-2 Boston Celtics today (8pm ET Wednesday on ESPN).
Both teams have been pleasant surprises to start the season. The Lakers’ defense has been way better than most people expected. Their performance on that side of the ball has more than made up for an inefficient offensive beginning to the season.
Meanwhile, Boston is now on a nine-game winning streak after it began the year with two losses. Gordon Hayward’s fractured leg hasn’t appeared to hurt the team one bit and the squad now has the best record in the NBA.
This matchup won’t pack the punch it did in the 1960s, the 1980s or the late 2000s, but it should still be an entertaining contest. We will be looking at some burning questions for tonight’s game, then we will weigh all the relevant factors and make betting predictions and picks for this preview.
Can Offensive-Minded Lakers Bench Outplay Defensive-Minded Celtics Bench?
Los Angeles and Boston look to their top reserves for very different types of contributions. The Lakers bench, led by Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, is a very aggressive scoring group. Compare that to the Celtics, who have Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes, who all are better on defense than offense.
It will be interesting to see how those groups match up against each other. While neither team will probably spend much time with all-bench lineups, they will have plenty of bench-heavy lineups.
On paper, Boston has the edge here and it’s probably the deeper group since the Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. is injured right now. However, Randle and Clarkson have had games where they have caught fire this season, which can obviously swing the matchup.
Is Any Lakers Player Ready for the Kyrie Irving Matchup?
After some mediocre offensive games to start the year, Irving has come on strong for the Celtics. The All-Star point guard has dazzled fans to the tune of 23.6 points, 5.6 assists and just 1.3 turnovers per contest in his last seven games, also compiling a shooting slash of 50.4/36.7/83.3. He just torched the Atlanta Hawks for 35 points and seven assists on Monday.
Los Angeles’ defense to start the season has been solid, but the squad may not have faced an offensive weapon as dangerous as Irving yet. The other top offensive point guard the team faced (Damian Lillard) went off for 32 points against them.
Los Angeles doesn’t have a lockdown defender at the point guard position, but maybe Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can slide down a slot to take on the Irving matchup. Jordan Clarkson, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are other options to guard Irving, but I don’t see them doing as well.
Can Los Angeles Find its Rhythm From Behind the Three-Point Line?
The Lakers were supposed to be a decent three-point shooting team. They have several solid three-point threats, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma and others.
However, Los Angeles is just 28th in outside makes per game (7.4) and 29th in three-point percentage (31.4). No one is shooting them with a huge amount of volume or accuracy.
Boston’s defense is extremely stingy in all aspects right now, including defending the three ball. The Lakers could really use the chunk of points provided by the three-point shot, because they might not have the firepower to stay with Boston if they continue relying on scoring most of their points in the paint.
Our Preview’s Lakers vs. Celtics Betting Picks & Predictions
This is a matchup both teams should get up for, considering there’s a long history between the squads. In that sense, home-court advantage could be less of a factor here. Los Angeles does have one extra day of rest heading into the contest.
I do also think that the Celtics’ early-season dominance has been a little bit of a fluke. They are a very good team, but maybe not as good as they’ve shown. There may be a little bit of complacency on their end, as a loss after a nine-game winning streak isn’t the end of the world.
- According to most of the United States sports betting sites, the Celtics are anywhere between 8.5- and 9-point favorites in this contest. This preview recommends placing your bet on the Lakers +9 @ -115 with either Bovada or Bookmaker.
- I think the Lakers’ cold shooting and both teams’ lockdown defenses are all due for some regression to the mean, based on both squads’ personnel. This means the game shouldn’t be too low-scoring. Wager on this game going over 208.5pts @ -120 with BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.